Transforming learning spaces with SMART’s interactive displays
Innovative, technology-rich classrooms with multiple interactive displays are creating expanded opportunities for student collaboration and learning. We spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Charles, a faculty member at Dawson College and educational researcher associated with the consortium Supporting Active Learning and Technological Innovation in Science Education (SALTISE) and Chris Whittaker, Physics Professor and the Program Coordinator of The Science Program at Dawson College in Montreal Quebec, to learn more about how the implementation of multiple, student dedicated interactive displays is changing the way that they teach, increasing student engagement and improving learning outcomes.
Engaged in active learning
Students at Dawson College are collaborating in exciting and enriching ways in a new technology-rich classroom designed for student-centered engagement and collaborative learning. In the classroom, students sit in groups of six around oval tables. Each group has a SMART Board interactive whiteboard and the classroom has implemented SMART Classroom Suite interactive learning software.
In this interactive, shared learning space students collaboratively work together to view applications, run simulations, solve problems, create knowledge artifacts and build a shared understanding of material.
Before creating the classroom, faculty and technicians from Dawson College toured technology-rich classrooms, including the TEAL classrooms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and redesigned physics teaching labs to facilitate active learning pedagogies and the use of computer controlled experimentation and simulations. From these experiences, the new classroom was designed and built.
“The development of the technology-rich classroom was based on research in the field of the Learning Sciences. We believe important aspects of active and collaborative learning is the production, co-construction and public sharing of group work,” says Dr. Charles.
“In the classroom, students working at the SMART Board interactive whiteboards share in the process of knowledge building, exploration and problem solving. This helps students feel more engaged and accountable,” says Whittaker.
The table design facilitates student interactions while allowing easy access and a clear view of the SMART Board interactive whiteboards. The arrangement of the tables also makes it easy for teachers to join groups to monitor student progress, answer questions or spark new ideas. “I like to walk around and start lighting little fires that I want to burn in their mind,” explains Whittaker, “When I ask questions, I can see them start to think and wonder. Then I leave them to work together collaboratively, instead of waiting for an answer from me.”
“With the technology in the room, teachers are finding it easier to change their pedagogical approach. Active approaches to teaching become more intuitive when you have to think about how to use the interactive whiteboards for more than the projection of content,” says Dr. Charles.
“Once you decide to put the learning in the hands of the students, you begin to see opportunities to use technology in different ways – and with the technology in the classroom, the opportunities are vast,” explains Dr. Charles.
Multiple interactive whiteboards enable students to easily explore concepts through effective visualizations that they can manipulate in SMART Notebook collaborative learning software. “The layers are a very nice feature in SMART Notebook software. With layers we can take something from reality and keep abstracting on it, which is very effective for student learning,” says Dr. Charles.
Students participating in group work participate in conversations using the vocabulary of the subject they are studying. Dr. Charles explains, “This gets students outside of their own little bubble. When students have to explain things to each other using the terms they are studying, they quickly recognize when they don’t understand something.”
The technology-rich classroom is used by teachers from variety of disciplines, including biology, organic chemistry, physics, physical education, social science, interior design, mechanical engineering and music. The teachers meet weekly to share ideas and best practices.
“We are benefitting from the diversity in the subjects that are being taught in the classroom. We meet regularly to share our pedagogical best practices and because we’re not from the same disciplines, the ideas shared are spurring on more creative aspects to our teaching,” explains Dr. Charles.
You can read more about multiple displays in the classroom from other educators in the May issue of EDCompass magazine.
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Read about the SWELL Classroom, an interactive learning lab that has been outfitted with multiple SMART Boards and other SMART products